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Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness

Dietary supplements and women’s health

How does military training and pregnancy affect women’s nutritional status and need for supplements?

Military training and pregnancy increase women’s nutritional needs, specifically for vitamin D, calcium, iron, folate, and iodine. While HPRC always recommends choosing whole foods first, sometimes it can be difficult to get enough of those nutrients through food alone. When nutrient needs are higher than normal or when nutrient-rich foods aren’t available, vitamin and mineral supplements can help women to restore nutrient levels in their bodies. Just remember that you don’t need supplements unless you have known nutrient deficiencies, so talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplement. Read more...

Turning mealtime into “family time”

After a long workday, you might consider forgoing a family meal. Instead, combine plan-ahead tips with simple time-saving recipes. Add your loved ones to the mix and enjoy!

Mealtime can be enjoyable “family time” too, especially when you plan ahead and ask family members to “pitch in.” Kids like being helpful so let them know they’re vital members of your “family team.”

Many moms and dads recognize the importance of family mealtimes, but often want helpful ideas to make it “the norm.” Here are some tried-and-true tips to get you started. Add these to your family’s routine gradually. And add new tips whenever possible. Read more...

Celebrate Mother’s Day

Filed under: Family, Relationships
Celebrate Mother’s Day wherever you’re serving—at home or abroad.

Mother’s Day is set aside to honor mothers, but for service members who can’t celebrate with their moms or who can’t take time to celebrate being a mom, it can be hard. But still do your best to take time and recognize the special moms in your life.

  • Show your appreciation with a handwritten note or ecard. If you’re feeling creative, make a card from scratch—just like you did as a kid—and drop it in the mail.
  • Enjoy a physical activity together. Go walking, running, biking, hiking, or do yoga. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, together or apart, can help you both enjoy Mother’s Day in the future too.
  • Nourish your mom with healthy treats or a homemade meal. And consider inviting a mom who doesn’t have family nearby. Good food and conversation can make her day special too.

If you can’t be with your mom, then schedule a time to talk or video chat. Let her know how much you cherish your relationship. And ask any questions you might have wondered about, such as:

  • How are we alike or different?
  • What did you really think when I joined the military (or married someone in the military)?
  • Is it easier being a mother now that your kids are grown?
  • What do you hope the next few years will bring for our family?

If you’re feeling some sadness or anxiety, make a point to manage your stress. “Perfect” moms and/or children could evoke stress, even if you love them dearly. Consider mindfulness or other ways to cope, and make the best of this day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all military moms—service members, spouses, and mothers of service members!

PFT/PRT prep—Part 3: Mobility

Mobility, stability, and flexibility go hand in hand when translating your PFT/PRT training into performance. Training for each requires different but complementary approaches.

This is the third and final article in HPRC’s series about training for Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT). The last basic component involves keeping your body fit for movement, especially your joints and the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments. For coordinated and efficient movements, you need give-and-take between the mobility and stability of these parts.

Preventing injuries also requires mobility and stability of your musculoskeletal system. To improve and maintain your mobility, you need to incorporate stretching into your regular training regimen, along with your aerobic and muscular-strength exercises. The addition of muscular-strength exercises to flexibility exercises addresses your joint-stability needs. Read more...

Brain injury and memory problems

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Many service members have been affected by traumatic brain injuries. Some have memory problems too. Learn more.

Since 2000, around 350,000 service members have been affected by traumatic brain injuries. TBI often impacts memory, especially short-term memory. Think of long-term memory and short-term memory as “holding bins” for information. Your long-term memory can hold information from several days to decades, while your short-term memory retains information for just a few seconds. And short-term memory is closely associated with working memory (your ability to manipulate information in your head) and sustained attention (your ability to maintain focus).

When memory problems strike, short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention tend to suffer before long-term memory does. Regardless of cause, memory of a remote event stands out more than newer events because your mind has “rehearsed” the older event repeatedly, essentially embedding it in your brain through repetition. By comparison, your mind hasn’t yet “learned” the newer event. For example, you might recall every detail of combat stories but have difficulty remembering what you ate for lunch. In this case, brain connections that rehearsed the combat story have become solidified, while connections responsible for learning this new information haven’t formed yet.

Depending on the location and nature of the injury, your brain might work differently than it did in the past. This could happen because brain cells that used to “communicate” with each other easily are now being rerouted.

Short-term memory, working memory, and sustained attention also can be affected by other factors such as stress, distraction, poor sleep, depression, anxiety, and/or body toxins. The cause isn’t always obvious. Your doctor can help sort it out, answer questions about your condition, treatment, and prognosis, and refer you to a neuropsychologist for further evaluation. In the meantime, you might find HPRC’s TBI resources useful too.

Ketone supplements

Are ketone supplements the key to improving your performance?

If you’ve searched recently for dietary supplements to enhance your performance, you may have come across products marketed as “ketone supplements.” Before you consider taking any of these products, read the new Operation Supplement Safety FAQ about ketone supplements. Learn what ketone supplements are and if they’re worth the often-hefty price tag.

If you’re curious about other supplements marketed for performance, check out the OPSS Performance FAQs. Can’t find the answers you’re looking for? Send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Ketogenic diet and performance enhancement

HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition, Total Force Fitness
What’s a ketogenic diet? Can it really help you perform better?

A ketogenic diet (KD) is one that’s very high in fat, moderate in protein, and very low in carbohydrates. Traditionally, KDs have been used to help treat children with epilepsy (seizure disorder), but over the past few years they have gained popularity in the athletic community for purported performance-enhancing effects. At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the use of KDs to improve performance; in some cases, it can even decrease performance. It also can be difficult to maintain a ketogenic diet due to its extreme dietary constrictions, which come with potential negative side effects. Read more...

PFT/PRT prep—Part 2: Muscular strength

Part 2 of HPRC’s PFT/PRT prep series focuses on exercising for muscular strength and endurance—critical components to performing your best on your fitness test.

Another basic component of Physical Fitness (PFT) and Physical Readiness Tests (PRT) training involves muscular strength and endurance, but as with aerobic conditioning, you need to develop it over time, not just before your fitness tests. Whether you’re training or in the field, and even when you’re not thinking about it—such as moving ammunition boxes into a transport—your muscular strength and endurance are essential components of your overall fitness.

But training to improve muscular strength is not the same as training for muscular endurance. Muscular strength is the amount of force that a muscle can produce with a single maximum effort. Muscular endurance is the ability to sustain a muscle contraction over a period of time, or to repeatedly contract a muscle over a period of time.

Learn how to use the FITT principle to develop a muscular fitness routine that will build both strength and endurance to prepare for PFT/PRT and beyond. Read more...

Lower-back pain? Try yoga

HPRC Fitness Arena: Total Force Fitness
If you have aches and pains in your lower back, yoga might help decrease your discomfort.

If your lower back hurts now and then, or if you struggle with ongoing pain in this area, consider yoga to help relieve the physical and mental discomfort. Lower-back pain is common, but the good news is that the pain usually goes away pretty quickly without specific treatment for most people. For others, though, lower-back pain is chronic. Practicing yoga and yoga stretches can be a great short-term way to reduce the length, intensity, and frequency of lower-back pain. For some people, yoga can even reduce this pain in the long term. And what we know so far suggests there aren’t likely to be serious negative effects of using yoga for lower-back pain.

Yoga typically includes three parts. First, breathing retraining to help calm and focus your body and mind. Second, yoga can increase your flexibility, coordination, and strength. Lastly, meditation exercises can help you develop greater self-awareness, lower your stress levels, and improve your mood.

Yoga isn’t a replacement for seeing your doctor or talking to a healthcare provider about your pain. If you have a medical condition, consult your healthcare provider before you start doing yoga. Also, everyone’s body is different, but yoga can be modified based on your body structure and how your body is feeling. There is no such thing as “perfect form.” The best practice is what you commit to doing in that moment.

Wondering how to get started? HPRC’s Mindful Stretching Exercises Using Yoga Poses will walk you through some basic yoga stretches. 

Mindfulness help for service members

HPRC Fitness Arena: Mind Body, Total Force Fitness
Learn about some of the benefits of learning mindfulness meditation and becoming more mindful.

Mindfulness meditation can help service members learn to focus on the present, heal from injury, and/or improve their performance. It’s a popular technique in which you clear your mind of clutter and simply notice thoughts, sensations, emotions, or distractions by focusing attention on a specific target such as breathing. During this process, you consistently (and gently) guide your attention back to a present moment and focus on your target, with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment. This attitude extends into treating yourself with compassion, rather than judgment. “Mindfulness meditation” and “mindfulness” are often used interchangeably, but mindfulness meditation refers to a technique, whereas mindfulness refers to any process of bringing mindful awareness into daily life. Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly can help you become more mindful in general. Read more...

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